Music review of Destroyer's 'Kaputt' album

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Destroyer Kaputt

Destroyer's Dan Bejar has become a cult favorite thanks to a songwriting style equally iconoclastic and idiosyncratic. He's a lyrical descendant of Dylan, writing overstuffed lines that are always worth the months they take to decode and a musical chameleon who shifts styles with each album.

He also contributes three songs on each album put out by the New Pornographers, coming off as the weird kid who infiltrates honors class and gets the best score on every exam.

"Kaputt," the ninth Destroyer album, is his most impressive achievement to date. It's both the sharpest left turn of his zigzag-filled career and his most welcoming collection of songs. Goodbye, slashing guitars, nasal chirps and any hint of traditional indie rock; hello, languid saxophone, tranquil cooing and soft-rock beats. This is morning-after music - uncluttered, unhurried, completely at ease with itself. There are also fewer lyrical layers to dig through, even if Bejar's words are still best appreciated with footnotes.

To be clear, this is no simple aesthetic exercise or ironic take on Roxy Music-meets-yacht-rock. The stripped-down arrangements result in a refreshing directness. The track "Kaputt" is close to a singalong, and "Suicide Demo for Kara Walker" - complete with sax and flute solos - glides gracefully over the course of eight minutes, maintaining its sleek momentum throughout.

Another key ingredient is gospel singer Sibel Thrasher, who regularly appears as a vocal foil to add a splash of drama on leisurely strolls through "Chinatown" and "Downtown." It takes the focus off of Bejar, but that seems to be his goal throughout. He's been a sideman and a star. On "Kaputt," he's in the director's chair fulfilling a remarkable musical vision.

- David Malitz

Recommended tracks: "Suicide Demo for Kara Walker," "Savage Night at the Opera," "Bay of Pigs"

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